NEW YORK, NY (WIS) - The foreman of the jury hearing the murder trial of former North Charleston Police officer Michael Slager says he believes race was not a factor in the jury's failure to meet a decision.
Dorsey Montgomery II appeared in an exclusive interview on NBC Today Thursday morning along with his attorney Ross Miller.
"Due to the society that we live in, you know, race will always be a factor," Montgomery said. "But at that point in time, I do believe that some jurors may have had that in their minds. But the majority of them didn't have anything in their minds in reference to race that may have played a factor in the decision."
Montgomery was the only African-American on the panel of 12 selected to decide the fate of Michael Slager, who is white. He was charged with murdering Walter Scott during a traffic stop in North Charleston in 2015. After four days of deliberation, Judge Clifton Newman declared a mistrial.
"At first we looked at the the evidence that has been presented, and looking at the evidence that has been presented and looking at the video, of course the video was something that's very shocking," Montgomery said of a video of the shooting taken by a bystander. "So, not knowing everything that we know now, of course, we can speculate. But after seeing the video and seeing the evidence, we understand just a little bit different now."
Montgomery admitted that before the jury began deliberating, he was personally prepared to convict Slager of murder.
"At that point in time, yes. Initially it was going to be murder, but after we looked at the evidence and read the laws and looked at the things that were presented to us by the judge, we had to come to find out that he didn't do anything malicious. He had manslaughter. When we had -- when he had a brief disturbance, he had a reason for that moment. So based on the law, that would be classified under manslaughter -- voluntary manslaughter."
Montgomery said he wanted to explain what had been reported that one juror was holding out on a decision to convict, based on a letter the jury presented to the judge Friday.
"That's why I'm here to correct that and speak up for the jurors who were with me in the deliberation room. 'Cause I come to find out that the media misconstrued that particular letter. When that letter was submitted on that Friday, it was because we had one individual who was just deadlocked and he wasn't changing. But yet we had five other individuals who were undecided. And so because of that, we went and when the judge asked me, I believe we could have deliberated just a little bit more to see if we could sway that one particular juror and get those who were undecided to make a decision."
When asked about that one juror who said he could not vote guilty in good conscience, Montgomery said, "He just had his own -- convictions. I'll just leave that right there."
Montgomery's attorney Ross Miller was asked about Slager's testimony and how jurors react to officers' statements when they're on trial in a case like this.
"They'll take into consideration what the officer says, of course," he said. "But people have a preconceived notion as to what police should and will do. Regardless of whether or not -- they've obviously never been involved in a similar situation. But people have these preconceived notions of what police should do, what they will do under intense circumstances."
After the mistrial was declared Monday, solicitor Scarlett Wilson said she would retry Slager. Scott's family held a news conference after the decision and said "the fight is not over."
"At this point in time I believe that justice shall come forth," Montgomery said. "And whatever the outcome is it's what the outcome shall be. I just played a small part in this particular part of it but whatever the outcome will be, that is what the outcome shall be."